Having spent many weekends in Galway and viewing myself as somewhat of a Galway aficionado, I felt compelled to share my experiences of this small city in the west of Ireland. If you wish to escape the busy streets of Dublin but still want to immerse yourself in urban life, Galway is the perfect spot for you!
With a population of 75,000 it may be small but it is certainly mighty. Galway is known for its stake in the arts and culture scene and there is always something going on in this town. While the weather can often be less than inspiring, you can be sure to find something to do when you pass through and when the weather is good in Galway it oozes an effervescent energy.
In the city centre there are plenty of bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops to keep you entertained for a long weekend or even a week or two holidays. There is always something happening in the city that is different, making your trip that little bit extra special.
What’s on in Galway?
If you are planning a trip in the upcoming weeks there is lots of exciting events. Over the Easter weekend the annual food festival took place at the Spanish Arches. Paired with sunny skies and not a drop of rain in sight (but plenty of wine) it made for a memorable feast. Whatever your taste buds crave, there was something to satisfy it so I recommend checking it out next year. There is also a weekly market in Galway City, which opens all year on Saturday and Sundays and even on Fridays in July and August. This market has been running for centuries and you can find everything from beeswax candles to falafels to wooden furniture. http://galwaymarket.weebly.com/
For film fanatics, The Japanese Film Festival is coming to the Eye Cinema from the 12th April to the 16th. http://www.jff.ie/
For those who would are looking for more action and adventure, there is the Galway Water Sports Show on the 11th and 12th of April. http://galwaywatersportshow.com/
For the brave at heart who long to be at one with the elements, The Western Lakes and Atlantic Challenge (WLAC) might be what you are after. This cycling challenge suits everyone; it includes a short cycle (family friendly) and also a long cycle for the more athletically gifted. Taking place on the 26th April, it gives you enough time to get into shape before the big day. http://www.wlac.ie/
The Cúirt International Festival of Literature takes place in Galway City this year and it runs from the 21st April to the 28th and includes authors such as Colm Toibin and Jane Hershfield. From a celebration of Yeats to a Poetry Slam, the festival includes an eclectic mix that caters to many audiences. http://www.cuirt.ie/en
Over the summer there will continue to be exciting events so be sure to keep a look out for upcoming events in Galway for Summer 2015.
Where to Eat?
Despite its diminutive size as far as cities go, you can always find somewhere to eat and all appetites are catered for. Whether it is a salad and a healthy juice or hearty pub grub and a nice pint, Galway will have it. Here are my top places to eat depending on the mood you or in or your dietary requirements.
As brunch continues to gain popularity across Ireland and we scratch our heads to think of what life was like before it became part of our weekend ritual, here is the lowdown to Galway’s best brunch options.
Gourmet Tart Co. in Salthill is a great place to go for something quick and delicious. It has a lovely deli and bakery section as well as serving lunch and dinner. On the weekends they cater for the brunch clientele and it is always tasty and the service is reliable. Rachael’s recommendations: brioche French toast, as it is zesty and sweet. http://www.gourmettartco.com/
My favourite place to spend a Sunday morning in Galway is Ard Bia at Nimmos. From the cakes displayed at the entrance door, to the stone bar, to the fresh juices, to the menu, everything is perfection! This place is hidden away under the Spanish Arches and is a must try. Not only is the food delicious but also the vibe is great and the building itself is quaint and full of character. The waiter’s laid back but friendly attitude will make you feel at home especially after a night on the town. Rachael’s recommendations: my absolute favourite brunch dish from here is the buttermilk pancakes, they are fluffy cakes of heaven and with honey, mascarpone and berries accompanied, they are the perfect Sunday treat. http://www.ardbia.com/
For lunch in the city my best recommendation is McCambridges. Based conveniently on Shop Street in the city centre this is a charming spot. While it may not look like much from the outside, inside there is a large delicatessen grocery store full of specialist foods and a coffee spot. Upstairs is the restaurant and you can often be kept waiting to get your hands on their delectable lunch options. Rachael’s recommendations: the falafel wrap and don’t forget to order a side of sweet potato fries. They have nice desserts for afters as well. https://mccambridges.com/
For a fairly fancy dining experience that costs a little extra, it has to be Kai. Based just outside the city centre on Sea Road, this small spot offers something unique to its punters. With a constantly changing menu, Kai keeps you on your toes and everything is made with fresh and organic ingredients and for vegetarians out there, the options are always great. With mains starting at €20 it is not a cheap option but you won’t be disappointed in quality or taste. http://kaicaferestaurant.com/
If you are craving something more exotic, check out eastern Tandoori. With reasonable prices, attentive staff and delicious Indian cuisine, Eastern Tandoori is a hit in my books. Based on Spanish Parade it is easily accessible for those spending the day in the city centre. Rachael’s recommendations: onion bhaji to start followed by tikka masala and garlic naan bread. http://eastern-tandoori-galway.com/
Pub Grub Dinner
There are plenty of pubs to choose from and here are a couple of pubs that do great drinks and food too. A few pints or glasses of wine, paired with hearty and flavoursome food might be the ticket after a busy day in Galway.
Everyone who goes to Galway should venture to Salthill, this seaside town is only a ten-minute drive from the city centre and is packed with pubs. Oslo is one that combines a good atmosphere, craft beer and great food perfectly. After taking a stroll down the promenade, be sure to pop in to Oslo for a drink and some food. Rachael’s recommendations: the falafel burger or the broiled salmon. http://www.galwaybaybrewery.com/oslo/
A little bit further outside the city you will find a pub that holds a restaurant upstairs, Tom Sheridan’s Bar & Restaurant in Knocknacarra. You may need a car to venture out here but if you have a rented car or you are willing to get a taxi, you can spend an enjoyable evening here. Rachael’s recommendations: traditional fish and chips but most items I have tried have not disappointed. http://tomsheridans.ie/
Where to Party?
Galway is known as a student city and a party place. Whether you are a student out with classmates or on a long weekend off from work or on a hen/stag do, there are plenty of places to let your hair down with a few drinks and some music. While there are much fewer clubs in Galway compared to Dublin, there is an abundance of pubs and a few nightclubs worth visiting.
As well as the pubs mentioned for pub grub there are a couple of city centre pubs that stand out for me.
Tigh Neachtain’s is in the centre of the city and covers all bases for a popular Irish pub. It is over 100 years old so it has character and history, they host live music nights and have over 130 types of whiskey, what more could you want? http://www.tighneachtain.com/
Located on the same street in the Latin Quarter is The Quays. This pub trumps Tigh Neachtain as it is nearly 400 years old and it also provides music throughout the week. This area of town is always buzzing and a great place to start your evening off. http://www.galwaycitypubguide.com/the-quays.html
The nightclub scene is not huge in Galway as more emphasis is placed on pubs but there are two nightclubs worth visiting if you have the stamina to keep going after visiting the Galway pubs.
Halo is situated on Upper Abbeygate Street and is an upmarket spot. It is over 23s however so not suitable for the younger students. It has a smoking area and has sizeable dance floor areas and with cocktails for under €10 it is pretty reasonable as far as club prices go. http://www.halonightclub.com/
Karma Club is another popular nightclub and is conveniently located on Eyre Square. It is a good spot to hit after 12.00 am when you are looking to keep the party going till the early hours, just be aware nightclubs in Galway close earlier and you will be out on the streets by 2.30 am. http://www.karma.ie/
Coffee and Cake
If you have little interest in hitting the bars, there are plenty of cute coffee and tea joints around town. My favourites are Cupan Tae, which will wow you with its kitschy furnishings and mouth watering homemade cakes and its neighbour, Pura Vida. They do great coffees and juices and it has a substantial outdoor area for a seat in the sun.
Whatever you enjoy doing on a weekend away Galway certainly has it. Only two hours by car from Dublin and with hourly buses leaving from the quays in the city centre for only €12 single journey, check Galway out this year for an idyllic staycation.
Places to stay
By Rachael Hussey